The Stage Theory of Theories

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Cenderawasih, Jan 27, 2022.

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  1. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    And can we cover one point at a time, pls? I'm new here, and haven't quite mastered the edit function yet. Thanks!
     
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  3. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    Er, before we even get started on this, we'd need a criterion on what does, and what does not, constitute scientific evidence. Do you have one?

    Sorry to be a philosophical pest

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  5. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    Hey James, what you're saying is: "There is still good evidence for phlogiston (except there is stronger evidence for new stuff now)". Right?

    I don't know any chemist who feels that way.
     
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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    It is important that laymen be sufficiently educated to understand what scientists mean when they talk about scientific studies and results. Ideally, this education should start to happen well before adulthood. Basic scientific literacy ought to part of a good school curriculum. That includes both an appreciation of some of the theories of science itself, but probably more importantly some idea of how science is done, which can start with the idea of the "scientific method". Those who want to delve deeper into the nuance as adults can, of course, do so.

    Scientifically literate laypeople will listen and understand when scientists - as they usually do - carefully qualify their claims about the effectiveness of COVID vaccines, say, or the likely impacts of climate change.
    You ought to understand "as good as it gets" to mean that the scientific model best accords with the available data, and that it is the current best available model for making decisions about future actions in respect of that data.
    The history of science disagrees with you. Science has tended to build on what is successful and to reject what is unsuccessful, over the centuries. To take one example, the advance of technology is not an accident.
    Did he mention the theory of gravity? All I see in the quote is the word "gravity", which suggests to me that he was talking about gravity, rather than any particular theory.
    Scientists are human beings who, among other things, often tailor their communications for the audiences they are addressing. Sometimes, you sound annoyed that scientists don't follow some kind of tacit language prescription or expectation that you have in your mind. You seem to have very strong preferences about the kinds of communication you would like to see. I might suggest that you might be better off honing your skills at interpretation, rather than trying to demand that other people to fit a mould.
    You exaggerate. There was no proof. Moreover, one of the main points of that book was that the evidence was either misinterpreted or else deliberately falsified. You didn't miss that, did you?
    Typically, physical theories, at least, often posit entities that are not directly observable. The existence of those entities has to be inferred from other observations. There are countless examples of this. But I suppose that, in a broad sense, those theoretical entities do "correspond" to "some part of nature". If they did not, the theory would be useless at making predictions of the behaviour of any actual physical system.
     
  8. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    It's hard to know what to say in cases such as these:

    1. There was, and still is, good evidence for phlogiston

    2. There never was, and never will be, good evidence for phlogiston.

    Read Peter Achinstein. He's the best man on evidence

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  9. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    (my emphasis)


    Uh oh!

    http://www.sciforums.com/threads/the-scientific-method-is-useless.106991/page-7#post-3691071
     
  10. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    "The Scientific Method" has about as much evidence to support its existence as Bigfoot, my friend.
     
  11. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    And your point is?

    No one denies the practical success of science. And thanks for the laptop

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    But to claim that science is approaching truth takes a little argument.

    What are you claiming?

    We build better stuff now? No argument

    We're getting closer to understanding how nature works? I'd need an argument
     
  12. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    I do not exaggerate. Have you read it? Is it true, or is it not true, that the finest scientific minds of the 19th century convinced themselves that white males were intellectually superior to Eskimos, Hottentots, women and negros?

    Proof? I was being sarcastic. But hey, they believed it.

    Er, how do you spell "exaggerate"?
     
  13. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    Fair point. But, how do you distinguish gravity from a theory of gravity?
     
  14. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    Dawkins was talking manifest drivel, as usual, I don't like him very much.

    What do you mean by "gravity", Prof Dawkins?

    Cartesian vortices?

    Newtonion action-at-a-distance?

    Einsteinian curvature of spacetime?

    Just to mention a few big names.
     
  15. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    and if you say "that stuff that makes people fall out of windows" I may shoot someone LOL
     
  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Cenderawasih:

    Context is important. It is true that, in many contexts, the two terms are used interchangeably, as I said previously. In the context of the philosophy of science, which is the one I believe you and I are discussing, they tend not to be used interchangeably. Like it or not, that's not just a matter of pedantry.

    You say that your only concern is "the truth", but what does that mean, in the context of science or the philosophy of science? This is why it is important to make the sorts of fine distinctions you're complaining about.
    Again, you exaggerate, and I'm not sure why. Clearly, evolutionary biologists tend to agree on a great many things. The basic process of evolution by natural selection, for instance, has been part of biology since Darwin. Only a very foolish evolutionary biologist - or one with another agenda - would claim to disagree with that.
    But that's not how that term is usually understood, is it?
    No.
    Thanks for the memory jog. It's been a while since I read that one. Phlogiston often gets mentioned in these kinds of discussions.
    No. But that's a single datum. We don't know The Truth (as in the Whole Truth) about Saturn, and we never will.
    Don't worry. I'll let you know if I find the way you're coming across problematic.
    You're a quick judge. Flattery may get you somewhere. You never know!
    That's a whole other can of worms. Where would you like to start?
    Suppose that the theory of phlogiston made claims X, Y, Z and W. Suppose, additionally, that X and Y were in accordance with observations made at the time, and with observations we can make today. Z was in accordance with the best observations that could be made at the time, but has been shown not to be in accordance with later observations. W was a prediction that could not be tested at the time and which we cannot test today.

    Given that situation, I think it would be fair to say that X and Y still provide as good evidence for phlogiston today as they ever did. The reason why we reject the phlogiston theory today is because of Z. Moreover, our modern theory of light predicts something other than Z, and that has been experimentally verified, making the modern theory superior to the phlogiston theory even though W cannot yet be tested/confirmed/refuted.
    In the sense that there is no single "scientific method", I agree with you. On the other hand, hypothetico-deductive methods go a long way to explaining how scientists go about doing what they do - even in spite of some of what Kuhn had to say on the matter.
    It's really up to you to get yourself up to speed, not for me to regress to your level. No offence.
    Tip: you can use [quote][/quote] tags to multi-quote in posts.
     
  17. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    I think I've been careful in talking about the capital-T Truth. I'm mostly responding to your claims, rather than making ones of my own. I guess I've made a few claims about various things, above. We can discuss any of the ones you take issue with.
    I would argue that we can build better stuff because we're getting closer to understanding how nature works. If you want to dispute that, then you might need to come up with a better hypothesis to explain why we're able to build better stuff now than in the past. The argument that technological advance happens purely by accident is pretty weak, in my opinion. Can you do better?
    Yes.
    We might have an argument about who the finest scientific minds of the 19th century were, or how we might identify them, but that's another story. Certainly, a lot of white European and American males convinced themselves of all the things you mention.
    Like that. Why do you ask?
    Whether you like him or not doesn't really impact on whether he is right or wrong in what he says/writes.

    Gravity is the label that we give to the thing that makes you fall to the ground when you jump out of your second floor window, whether or not you like hearing that. A theory of gravity, on the other hand, is essentially a model that lets us predict various features of that fall (e.g. approximately constant acceleration at a rate that depends on the mass of the Earth etc.), based on more fundamental postulates. Some theories of gravity are more successful than others, in the breadth of phenomena they can successful predict, when tested against real-world observations.

    Theories of gravity are true to the degree that they are able to make accurate predictions of the kind mentioned. Generally Relativity is "true" to a greater degree than Newtonian gravity, based on our observations, but it would be a mistake to assume that makes Newtonian gravity "false". Newton is only false in regards to the phenomena that GR accurately models and Newton does not. GR is the more powerful theory because it has wider applicability than the Newtonian theory.

    The situation with phlogiston is analogous. Phlogiston is demonstrably "wrong" about some things, in the same way that Newtonian gravity is wrong about some things - i.e. predictions of the theory do not match certain careful observations. The modern theory of light is superior in that it explains a wider variety of phenomena, including ones for which the phlogiston theory gives the "wrong" answers.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2022
  18. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    Yes, of course, sir.

    What you're doing is rehashing Hilary Putnam's "no-miracle argument", namely it would be a miracle if the success of science was a fluke and didn't hook up to reality.

    The standard rejoinder is: It is already well established that false theories can yield accurate predictions. Newtonian mechanics got us to the Moon and all that.

    But I know of no contemporary physicist who still believes in an action-at-a-distance attractive force which acts instantaneously over any distance. Do you?
     
  19. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    If you can give me a paraphrase of the principle of natural selection that is not tautologous and thus not emirically vacuous I will buy you a stuffed bear.

    Do you accept the challenge?
     
  20. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    Oh but that was besides the point. Have the read the evo-devo folks? They tend to think natural selection is a load of bollocks. And so do I. But I have no quotes. We may have to do this the old fashioned way, pal. Tell me about the predictive and explanatory power of natural selection. As far as I can discern, it has none.
     
  21. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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  22. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    Now for a statement to even stand a chance of being true its subject term must refer. Get me? It must correspond to something in reality.

    Do you believe anything true can be said about unicorns?

    If not, why not? Because there exist no horse-like creatures with a single horn?

    Do you believe anything true can be said about Newtonian gravity? If not, why not?

    Because there is no such thing as an action-at-a distance force which acts instantaneously over any distance with no expenditure of energy?

    How do you determine whether Newton's "gravity" referred to anything in reality or not?
     
  23. Cenderawasih Registered Member

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    May I see your demonstration?

    Seems you read a lil phil of science, pal. Surely you know about the Duhem-Quine thesis?
     
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